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Flag football: The game as it's meant to be played

Matt Dillon of Holtsville, playing for Mixed Breed,

Matt Dillon of Holtsville, playing for Mixed Breed, makes a catch during a game at Flag Football League at Coastal Sports, held on Monday nights in Hauppague. (November 29, 2010. ) Credit: Jim McIsaac

No pads, no playbook, no problem - just pigskin. This is a much simpler brand of Monday night football.

The 80 men of the North Shore Flag Football League are gathered at Coastal Sports arena in Hauppauge - colorful flags float from waists, plastic cones stand in for end zones and a hockey puck doubles as a down marker.

"It's a very basic game," says league organizer Tom Lynn of East Northport, whose loftiest football status came as a member of the Kings Park High School junior varsity in 1975. "Anybody who can run, catch or throw can play."

Some players are on the field to relive old glories, but most have no formal football experience - they're just a bunch of guys who want to play ball without the risk of helmet-to-helmet hits or blindside assaults. And they do it indoors, far from the frozen tundras seen on National Football League games.


INDOOR PLAY

Come winter, chilly weather can put quite a damper on the notion of playing flag football outdoors - if not make it impossible altogether.

Although the turf at Coastal Sports isn't ideal (the playing field is about half the size of a regular field), players say it's a fair trade-off for a climate-controlled environment.

"You can really show off your wheels in here on the turf," says Justin Hagedorn, 22, a senior at Stony Brook University. "It's better than freezing your butt off outside."

And it's not a bad way to spend a wintry Monday night, either.

"It's a place to get away from your work and your family and just hang out with friends for a couple hours," Lynn says. "Those opportunities are hard to come by. Sometimes you can't even get four guys together for a golf foursome."


HITTING THE FIELD

Every recreational football league has its own rules - NS Flag plays a 5-on-5 game with no blocking. The quarterback must snap the ball, but then all four players are eligible to catch a pass.

Coastal's turf is split into quarters, allowing four games to be played at one time, each with its own official.

The league, which is in its second year, runs two winter sessions, each consisting of a six-game schedule plus playoffs, which every team makes.

Games are split in two 20-minute halves of running time, with the last five minutes played on conventional time (clock stops for incompletion, etc.). Teams consists of eight or nine men - so everyone is kept busy on the field.

"It's nonstop," says Kevin Beck, 33, of Syosset. "You get no breaks. You get 15 seconds in between plays and you are constantly going and going and going. It's great cardio."

And, adds Beck, "It's better than playing Madden on your Xbox."

NS Flag 

WHEN | WHERE Plays at 9 and 10 p.m. Mondays at Coastal Sports, 114 Parkway Dr. S., Hauppauge. Sign-ups open now for new session starting in mid-January.

INFO 631-262-0543, nsflag.com

COST $800 per team, $105 free agents

Long Island Flag Football League

INFO 516-822-6312, liffl.com

Die-hard flag football enthusiasts should know that the LIFFL is an Islandwide league that plays its games outdoors on Sundays. It offers five-man, eight-man and nine-man formats in a variety of skill divisions, including youth leagues. Registration for the winter session (December-February) is open.

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